Anticipation of stricter movement curbs triggered panic-buying in Vietnam’s economic hub Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday, the epicentre of its coronavirus outbreak, while media reported unrest at a city jail where dozens of inmates were infected.

The health ministry said outbound travellers from the city of 9 million people would be subjected to a week of quarantine and testing at their destinations, a day after dozens of flights were suspended to control the spread.

Shelves at the supermarkets were being emptied since late Tuesday, witnesses said, in preparation for tighter measures, as the country reported more than 1,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time.

“They have bought everything, and now I can’t buy any food for my kids, not even eggs,” said a witness, who asked to be referred to by one name, Huong.

Resident Truong Thi Ngoc said wet markets had closed and finding food was difficult.

“Many of the shelves are completely empty, and I’m very worried about the situation,” Ngoc said.

Vietnam has quickly contained most coronavirus outbreaks but its current one has lasted more than two months. Ho Chi Minh City had recorded 617 of the 677 new cases reported nationwide by early afternoon Wednesday.

Traders said speculation about a strict lockdown had caused a 4% plunge in Vietnam’s benchmark index on Tuesday. The index recovered 2.5% on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh assigned two deputies to tackle the Ho Chi Minh City outbreak, including coronavirus task force head Vu Duc Dam.

On Tuesday Chinh said it was necessary to put human lives first and said there could be some economic disruption.

A riot broke out at the city’s Chi Hoa Prison on Tuesday night, when screams and gunshots were heard, VnExpress and state-run VTV reported. The reports said the jail was conducting testing after 81 inmates and wardens were infected. Read More

By Ian Dei

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